Billye Brown Youmans Featured Singer in Poulenc Gloria
On the second Monday in the series at Wesleyan on December 5, 2005, the College Choir and The Wesleyan Singers presented a program titled Christmas at Wesleyan with conductor David Clayton and pianist George Stone and thirty singers. Fourteen of these vocalists perform as The Wesleyan Singers and presented a delicate, precise Gloria in D. RV 589 by Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741). It was lovely.
The College Choir sang Three Christmas Pieces: Star Carol, Christmas Lullaby and Jesus Child as set by John Rutter (b. 1945) and followed it with the dramatic and complex Gloria by Francis Poulenc. This demanding piece was a challenge for these young singers in setting the framework for Ms. Youman's powerful, intensely dramatic performance.
On December 31, 2005 we had an e-mail from Ms. Youmans telling us that her voice teacher from graduate student days, Louis Nicholas (1910-2005) had died December 28. She and David Clayton studied with him at Peabody College in Nashville, Tennessee. "I have carried many of his pedagogical theories into my own teaching [of voice students]. He was also a wonderful newspaper critic and gave me my very first review. He was quite generous." says Ms. Youmans, who sang in the choir for his memorial service on January 7, 2006 at Vine Street Christian Church in Nashville.
Redmon & Woodward at Virginia Wesleyan
So well-known and loved in Tidewater are mezzo-soprano Robynne Redmon and pianist Charles Woodward that the title of their wonderful program of Christmas music needed no embellishment. On December 12, 2005, though suffering from a cold, our singer thrilled her audience with a warm and wonderful recital of seasonal favorites with support and excellent playing by Mr. Woodward.
To open, the duo burst forth with The Most Wonderful Time of the Year by Pola and Wyle, arranged by Luke Duane. Ms. Redmon encouraged her audience to let go of holiday stress, relax and let the music take us away. From G.F. Handel's Messiah she sang Behold, A Virgin Shall Conceive and O Thou That Tellest Good Tidings to Zion; when she sang "Get thee up into a high mountain," the "mountain" floated beautifully up to where we sat. These were followed by Et Exultavit from J.S. Bach's Magnificat and Geistliches Wie by Johannes Brahms. I was moved to tears by the beauty of the music and of the voice.
There were traditional English and German carols, and a French carol from Provence, all in arrangements that offered us the maximum enjoyment of the voice and piano. Sing Joy! from England created a mood for welcoming winter. The program ended with Let it Snow, The Christmas Song, Winter Wonderland, I'll Be Home for Christmas, We Wish You a Merry Christmas and White Christmas as an encore.
This was a dream come true Christmas recital and I hope you were there to hear it. Certainly many of Tidewater's finest professional vocalists and instrumentalists were in the audience to enjoy and honor this duo.
To a friend who was feeling in need of some good, live Christmas music, Steve wrote: "Did Robynne Redmon satisfy your need for Christmas music? She did mine. I've never heard those hymns and Christmas songs so well sung in a live recital by anyone else. She really commands the stage and has superb bearing as well as a voice I love. It was satisfying for me since I especially like mezzo voices and violas."
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